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Keywords:

  • breastfeeding;
  • breastfeeding support;
  • cultural context;
  • minority ethnic groups;
  • African;
  • Australia

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the experience of breastfeeding among refugee women from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo living in two major capital cities in Australia. Participants were recruited from their relevant community associations and via a snowballing technique. Thirty-one women took part in either individual interviews or facilitated group discussions to explore their experiences of breastfeeding in their home country and in Australia. Thematic analysis revealed four main themes: cultural breastfeeding beliefs and practices; stigma and shame around breastfeeding in public; ambivalence towards breastfeeding and breastfeeding support. Women who originated from these four African countries highlighted a significant desire for breastfeeding and an understanding that it was the best method for feeding their infants. Their breastfeeding practices in Australia were a combination of practices maintained from their countries of origin and those adopted according to Australian cultural norms. They exemplified the complexity of breastfeeding behaviour and the relationship between infant feeding with economic status and the perceived social norms of the host country. The results illustrate the need for policy makers and health professionals to take into consideration the environmental, social and cultural contexts of the women who are purportedly targeted for the promotion of breastfeeding.